By Goodluck Edafe
A FEW weeks ago, I wrote the title, “GovWike as a model of leadership”. In it, I mentioned some of the defining attributes that separate the rivers state Governor, from others.
His glowing sense of courage, his untiring strength of character and outspokenness against anything that appears oppressive and injurious to the common good.
My title is deliberate. It speaks about Governor Wike’s bird eye-view into critical areas of governance in our country and frontline position in moving Nigeria closer to fiscal and true federalism. It’s a movement towards genuine national development.
The celebrated development in the United States of America, USA is the development that existed in the component states like New York, Houston Texas, California and others. States in Nigeria are closer to the people and constitutionally speaking, they have greater responsibility in the provision of social services. T
hey are under obligation to provide educational services at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary education. Others are healthcare services, electricity, road infrastructures, portable drinking water, security, etc., which are all aids to economic activities and national development.
Without exaggeration, the FHC judgment on VAT as now known all over represents Wike’s desire to reposition the states and country for greater development. It sends across a signal of the possibility of true federalism and social restructuring in the country in the near future.
It’s a sort of recovering back from the federal government all abandoned rights and privileges that are domiciled in the states. Fortunately, Wike became the rat that bells the cat.
I mean the driver of the recovery process. Apparently, with little courage and a will pioneered by patriotism, Nigerians can actually redefine their existence in a mismanaged land of milk and honey.
For sure, we cannot continue to patronize practices that weigh on our development, weaken our potentials and mock our collective sensibilities. It’s time to address experiences in our country that kill creativity and personal initiative. We call it a federal system yet it’s unitary in approach. Certainly, Wike cannot be wrong in this matter. I agree with his arguments. They are lawful, morally reasonable and logically sound.
The governor awards construction contracts running into hundreds of billions of naira in a bid to rebuild a state, increase economic activities and expand business potentials, only for a far-away federal government to rush down like a wasteful concubine to collect 7.5% VAT amount on all such contracts award and share to other states infraction yet in the same rivers state, revenue is grossly inadequate and needed to pay pension and gratuity, rising monthly wage bill, tackle insecurity, build more roads, more educational facilities and healthcare centres for the people.
Beyond the law, it’s irrational and unfair. VAT ordinarily is supposed to provide an additional source of revenue for the states to augment their statutory allocation from the federation account and build their states for economic activity to thrive at different levels. Thus, the practice of taking VAT from states that are working hard to feed other states, may not only discourage the hard-working states but will naturally encourage laziness among the weaker states.
Worrisomely, by the political structure of the Nigerian state, governments across the country are positioned to compete in terms of vision and idea generation, creation of enabling environment for investments, strategic resource management, human capital and infrastructural development, politics and best electoral practices, leading to the greater happiness of the people. Across the world, there are economically more viable states than others. Thus, as a people, we must wake up from our long sleep to embrace the values of true federalism.
States that are notorious for destroying alcoholic related investments and have actually banned the sale and consumption of alcohol cannot be the greatest beneficiaries of VAT proceeds from states where the sale of alcohol is a big business. “Whatever a man does not eat”, they say, “He does not share with his mouth” lest he becomes a hypocrite.
Now that Governor Wike has opened our eyes to the issue of VAT – another key area in our journey to national development, let the state governments irrespective of party affiliation pursue the matter to its logical conclusion. Accordingly, the VAT issue is not one for which anyone or institution can rightly castigate Wike because it’s not about him but about the promotion of a better, just and equitable society.
Nevertheless, an eventual victory in the VAT case will always be a story that cannot be taken away from Wike and it might just be one of his many legacies in rivers state and beyond, being another indelible footprint in the sand of time. But it surprises that the state governors have remained quiet on this matter for so long.
Therefore, am calling on my own state Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to send a bill to the state assembly for a VAT law in the state. And he must know that this is not the time for hypocrisy in the guise of consultation. It’s a time to emulate Wike and sign a VAT bill into law in Delta State.